How RV Towing Regulations Work

Existence is flawless. You’ve labored for far too long, and you’ve finally reached a point where you can leave the desk, the supervisor, and the same lunch spot every day behind. You, my friend, are prepared to take the highway. Possibly you cashed in your 401(k) and purchased a luxurious new RV. Perhaps you’ve traded in your stationary home for one on wheels. You may have converted an ancient bus into a recreational vehicle. Regardless of the circumstances, you will likely want to bring along a few items that will not fit comfortably inside your motor home.

Consider a car as an example. Having an additional (and smaller) set of wheels gives you much more flexibility to explore the charming main streets of the cities you visit. A compact car is also considerably more energy-efficient than transporting your RV everywhere. If you’re planning a lake tour, you’ll likely have a watercraft with you. Or perhaps you simply have too much stuff to accommodate in your RV; in this case, a small travel trailer is a good choice.

Before you hitch your vehicle to your RV and travel up the highway, there are a number of factors you should consider. Do you have adequate insurance coverage for both your RV and your tow vehicle? Are you aware that towing regulations may vary from state to state? Before embarking on a lengthy journey, you should be as familiar as possible with all of the factors involved in towing.

This article will examine some of the unique circumstances that arise when towing an RV. On the following page, differences between state towing regulations are discussed.

RV Towing Laws by State

How RV Towing Regulations Work

When you cross state lines in your brand-new RV and discover that it is too lofty to comply with the laws of the state in which you are stopped, you could be in for a rude awakening. If you’re fortunate, you’ll encounter a genial state trooper who issues you a warning. Depending on the disposition of the officer, you could face a fine or even prison time at worst. The best way to avoid this problem is to familiarize yourself with the towing laws of each state you plan to travel through.

What do the states of Texas and Washington share? They are the only two states that require carriages with towed vehicles to observe a 60-mile-per-hour speed limit [source: Hitch Me Up]. In general, many states impose a speed limit of 65 miles per hour on motor coaches with trailers, while others impose a limit of 55 mph. This is an excellent example of how towing regulations can vary across state lines, and why it is important to be aware of this.

The utmost allowable weight for whatever you’re towing, whether it’s a car or a trailer, can also vary widely from state to state. Some states utilize the federal bridge formula, which calculates the weight based on the quantity carried per axle. Other states have different policies. Colorado’s gross vehicle weight limit is 54,000 pounds, while Iowa’s is 80,000 pounds [source: Towing World]. You will also need to have an accurate estimate of your combined gross vehicle weight. This is the combined weight of your RV, your towed cargo, all passengers, and fuel, as well as everything else found on board the RV and tow vehicle.

Most states provide public scales for RV and tow vehicle weighing. They are typically located near major highways. Some are administered by the government, while others are located on the premises of private businesses, such as dairy farms, that use scales to weigh shipping cargo. In either case, you will likely incur a fee. However, it will be worth the cost to ensure compliance with state laws.

Before embarking on a lengthy journey with your RV and tow vehicle, make a list of the states you intend to visit. Next to each state, identify the regulations that apply to your situation, such as the maximum height and weight. This can serve as a useful reference guide. Keep a complete printout of each state’s regulations in your RV; you never know when a detour from your original route will allure you.

Some states require auto insurance, whereas others do not. Read the following page to gain a better understanding of why you should have comprehensive RV towing insurance.

RV Towing Insurance

How RV Towing Regulations Work

When it comes to towing with an RV, it’s a prevalent misconception that the RV’s insurance policy also covers any vehicles in tow. Considering that the RV is much larger than the tiny vehicle it is towing, why wouldn’t it encompass the car?

The assumption that your RV policy covers a car (or anything else) you’re transporting is completely false. Coverage and policies vary by company and state, so HowStuffWorks cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a lengthy discussion with your insurance agent before hitting the road to ensure you have all the coverage you need.

Very few, if any, RV insurance policies cover towed vehicles. You will need insurance for both your RV and the vehicle you’re towing while on the road. If, heaven forbid, your towed vehicle becomes detached while traveling and collides with another vehicle, you will likely have to file two claims. The initial step will be filing a collision claim to remedy any damage to your towed vehicle. This is why you need insurance for the vehicle being transported. Your insurance claim will be filed against the collision coverage component of your policy.

The other claim will be filed by the drivers of any vehicles, other property owners, or individuals who were struck by your out-of-control vehicle after it became detached. Most likely, these claims will be covered by the liability portion of your RV insurance. This is why you also need full coverage (including liability) for your RV; a towed vehicle on the loose is typically deemed to be the driver’s fault. It’s also a good idea to have liability coverage on the towed vehicle, in case the detached towed vehicle incident infuriated another motorist.

People who reside in their RVs for more than 150 days per year should also consider purchasing a full-timers comprehensive personal liability policy, a type of RV insurance exclusive to recreational vehicles. This form of coverage allows you to treat your RV as if it were your home. As in your residence, someone who trips inside your RV and breaks an ankle may file a claim against you, and this coverage is designed to cover such claims. This type of policy is uncommon, and many people who travel full time in their RVs do not realize they need it until their insurance company denies a claim on the grounds that the RV is their primary domicile.

There are additional policies that RV drivers should investigate. Some pay for hotel accommodations while their RV is being repaired. Others provide full replacement or an upgrade if your RV is totaled. Again, policies vary from business to business and from state to state. Consult your insurance agent to learn what policies are available.

On the following page, discover how to convert a bus into an RV.

Bus to RV Conversions

How RV Towing Regulations Work

The highway’s allure appeals to a diverse group of individuals. While some travelers choose to purchase a brand-new RV, there is also space for those who prefer to build their own. Converting an abandoned bus into a recreational vehicle has become a viable and popular option.

It is true that you can construct your own RV from an ancient bus for a fraction of the price of even a used RV manufactured by a factory. One enthusiast, Jake VonSlatt, acquired an ancient school bus from eBay for approximately $2,000 and documented the conversion process online. VonSlatt utilized as much recycled material as possible, including salvaged and demolished materials, used and discarded items from acquaintances and the Internet, and salvaged and demolished materials. Another bus conversion ventured even further in the eco-friendly direction by converting the bus to operate on a diesel-vegetable oil mixture.

The converted bus owned by VonSlatt was similar to others in that it was an original product of the owner’s imagination. This is perhaps the most important reason why bus conversions have gained popularity among some RV enthusiasts: converted buses are unique.

Old school buses are among the most popular (and often inexpensive) buses to convert. Generally, these conversions are referred to as schoolies. Popular candidates for conversion include city transit buses and motor coach company buses that have been supplanted by newer models and are no longer in use. There are several companies that specialize in converting buses into recreational vehicles for individuals who do not know which way to wield a hammer. These professional conversions resemble the interiors of manufactured RVs frequently. Typically, they cost less than a new RV, but more than converting a bus yourself. In addition, the majority of people who convert buses into recreational vehicles are capable and prefer to do the work themselves.

Certainly, there is a degree of difficulty associated with any bus conversion. Before insulating the interior of the exterior walls, most conversions require the removal of all seats and other obstructions (buses were not originally designed for sleeping). The procedure of paneling then commences, followed by the installation of walls and floors. The installation of bedrooms, cabinets, bathrooms, appliances, and fixtures is required. Additionally, new plumbing and energy sources (for cooking and illumination) must be installed. After the structure has been constructed, it is time to add the finishing details, such as wall covering, upholstery, and flooring.

Converting a bus into a recreational vehicle is a laborious and time-consuming process. It’s far too detailed to outline here, but fortunately, the Internet is replete with websites devoted to publishing advice and information on bus conversions (you can find one link on the next page). Mr. VonSlatt provided some advice: Finding a free used travel trailer through a site like Freecycle or Craigslist not only yields reusable appliances designed to maximize space, such as sinks and sofas, but many enthusiasts find that tearing apart an old trailer is the best way to prepare for converting a bus [source: VonSlatt].

Whether you decide to go all out and purchase a brand-new motor home with all the bells and sirens, convert a bus into an RV yourself, or something in between, make sure you have adequate insurance and are aware of state-specific regulations. And most importantly, take it easy as you travel down the road.

Visit the following page for additional details on RVs and related topics.

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